A state of bliss

It’s easy to overlook the fact that after God created the heavens and the earth, “The earth was without form and void” (Genesis 1:2). The Hebrew word that is translated without form, tohuw (toˊ-hoo) means “to lie waste; a desolation (of surface), i.e. desert; figuratively a worthless thing” (H8414). The phrase without form and void appears in Jeremiah 4:19-31 which describes Judah’s desolation after being overtaken by the Babylonian army. Jeremiah 4:23-26 states:

I looked on the earth, and behold, it was without form and void;
    and to the heavens, and they had no light.
I looked on the mountains, and behold, they were quaking,
    and all the hills moved to and fro.
I looked, and behold, there was no man,
    and all the birds of the air had fled.
I looked, and behold, the fruitful land was a desert,
    and all its cities were laid in ruins
    before the Lord, before his fierce anger.

Genesis 1:2 goes on to say that “darkness was over the face of the deep” before God intervened in the situation. Darkness is used figuratively throughout the Bible to represent death, misery, and destruction. It’s hard to imagine that the earth came into existence in such a terrible state, but what is clear from the creation account in Genesis 1-2 is that God had to do something in order to change the state of the earth from one of destruction and waste to one of extreme pleasure.

Genesis 1:31 states, “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” God was able to make everything good by speaking into existence things that had a positive impact on the world. It says in Genesis 1:3, “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” Proverbs 8:22-31 indicates that God created a state of bliss on earth using wisdom. Wisdom tells us:

“The Lord possessed me at the beginning of his work,
    the first of his acts of old.
Ages ago I was set up,
    at the first, before the beginning of the earth.
When there were no depths I was brought forth,
    when there were no springs abounding with water.
Before the mountains had been shaped,
    before the hills, I was brought forth,
before he had made the earth with its fields,
    or the first of the dust of the world.
When he established the heavens, I was there;
    when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,
when he made firm the skies above,
    when he established the fountains of the deep,
when he assigned to the sea its limit,
    so that the waters might not transgress his command,
when he marked out the foundations of the earth,
    then I was beside him, like a master workman,
and I was daily his delight,
    rejoicing before him always,
rejoicing in his inhabited world
    and delighting in the children of man.”

Wisdom refers to himself as a master workman that assisted God in developing the specifications for the sky, the sea, and the foundations of the earth (Proverbs 8:28-29). Instead of master workman, the King James Version of the Bible translates the Hebrew word ʾamown (aw-moneˊ) “as one brought up with him” (Proverbs 8:30). With regard to training and skill, you might say that God and Wisdom had the same experience. ʾAmown is similar to the Hebrew word ʾaman (aw-mawnˊ) which is derived from the word ʾaman (aw-manˊ). ˊAman has to do with faith and is translated believed in Genesis 15:6 where it says that Abraham “believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness.”

The Hebrew word chokmah (khok-mawˊ), which is translated wisdom in Proverbs 8:1, 11 and 12, ‘is the knowledge and ability to make right choices at the opportune time. The consistency of making the right choice is an indication of maturity and development…The prerequisite is a desire to follow and imitate God as He has revealed Himself in Jesus Christ, without self-reliance and especially not a spirit of pride…The fruits of chokmah are many, and the Book of Proverbs describes the characters of chakam and chokmah. In the New Testament terms the fruits of ‘wisdom’ are the same as the fruits of the Holy Spirit; cf. ‘But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law’ (Galatians 5:22-23); ‘But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.’ (James 3:17-18)” (H2451).

Luke’s gospel tells us that Jesus was filled with wisdom. Luke 2:40 states, “And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.” The Greek word sophia (sof-eeˊ-ah) refers to both human and divine wisdom. “Sophia denotes a mental excellence of the highest sense, to details with wisdom as exhibited in action, and adding the power of reasoning about wisdom’s details by tracing their relationships.” (G4678). The Greek word sophia appears in Romans 11:33-36 where Paul talks about the mystery of Israel’s salvation. Paul exclaimed:

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

“For who has known the mind of the Lord,
    or who has been his counselor?
Or who has given a gift to him
    that he might be repaid?”

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:33-36)

Paul described God’s judgments as being unsearchable and his ways as inscrutable or not able to be tracked out (G421). It’s sometimes difficult for us to do what God wants us to because it doesn’t make sense to us. We want to know the logic behind God’s actions.

An example of God’s ways being inscrutable was his command that Abraham sacrifice his son Isaac. Genesis 22:1-2 tells us, “After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, ‘Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ He said, ‘Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.’” When it says that God tested Abraham, it means that God told Abraham to do something that required faith (H5254). The only way that Abraham could do what God wanted was to act by faith; Abraham had to believe that even though it didn’t make sense to him, sacrificing his son Isaac was the right thing for him to do. Hebrews 11:17-19 tells us that, “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac…of whom it was said, ‘Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.’ He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.”

The Israelites’ obedience to God’s commandments required faith in that God’s rules and regulations were based on things in the spiritual realm rather than things in the physical realm (Hebrews 9:23). Moses told the Israelites that their faith might be tested in the same way that Abraham’s was. Moses said, “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the Lord your God is testing you, to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him. But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has taught rebellion against the Lord your God…So you shall purge the evil from your midst” (Deuteronomy 13:1-5). Moses’ instruction to purge the evil from their midst had to do with the interference of evil with the Israelites’ faith or you might say the fruit of their wisdom.

Wisdom tells us in Proverbs 8:12-19:

“I, wisdom, dwell with prudence,
    and I find knowledge and discretion.
The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil.
Pride and arrogance and the way of evil
    and perverted speech I hate….
Riches and honor are with me,
    enduring wealth and righteousness.
My fruit is better than gold, even fine gold,
    and my yield than choice silver.

Wisdom identified four things that were set against him; pride, arrogance, the way of evil, and perverted speech (Proverbs 8:13) and said, “My fruit is better than gold, even fine gold, and my yield than choice silver” (Proverbs 8:19).

Proverbs 2:6-7 indicates that the LORD gives us wisdom and that “he stores up sound wisdom for the upright.” Proverbs 2:10-12 goes on to say that wisdom comes into our heart and as a result we have knowledge and understanding that delivers us from the way of evil. In addition to receiving personal wisdom from the Lord, Proverbs 8:1-11 tells us that wisdom is constantly trying to get our attention. It states:

Does not wisdom call?
    Does not understanding raise her voice?
On the heights beside the way,
    at the crossroads she takes her stand;
beside the gates in front of the town,
    at the entrance of the portals she cries aloud:
“To you, O men, I call,
    and my cry is to the children of man…
Take my instruction instead of silver,
    and knowledge rather than choice gold,
for wisdom is better than jewels,
    and all that you may desire cannot compare with her.

The Hebrew word that is translated instruction in Proverbs 8:10, muwçar (moo-sawrˊ) is properly translated as “chastisement” (H4148). Muwçar is translated discipline in Deuteronomy 11:1-7 where the Israelites were instructed to love and serve the LORD. It states:

“You shall therefore love the LORD your God and keep his charge, his statutes, his rules, and his commandments always. And consider today (since I am not speaking to your children who have not known or seen it), consider the discipline of the LORD your God, his greatness, his mighty hand and his outstretched arm, his signs and his deeds that he did in Egypt to Pharaoh the king of Egypt and to all his land, and what he did to the army of Egypt, to their horses and to their chariots, how he made the water of the Red Sea flow over them as the pursued after you, and how the LORD has destroyed them to this day, and what he did to you in the wilderness, until you came to this place, and what he did to Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab, so of Reuben, how the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households, their tents, and every living thing that followed them, in the midst of all Israel. For your eyes have seen all the great work of the LORD that he did” (emphasis mine)

Moses’ reminder of the LORD’s harsh punishment of Pharaoh, as well as, Dathan and Abiram was meant to warn the people that God’s discipline was not something that they wanted to experience. With regard to false witnesses, Moses told the Israelites, “The judges shall inquire diligently, and if the witness is a false witness and has accused his brother falsely, then you shall do to him as he had meant to do to his brother. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. And the rest shall hear and fear, and shall never commit any such evil among you. Your eye shall not pity. It shall be life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot” (Deuteronomy 19:18-21).

Job, who suffered numerous tragedies as a result of being targeted by Satan, was rebuked by his friends because they thought he was being disciplined by God. Eliphaz the Temanite told Job, “Behold, blessed is the one whom God reproves; therefore despise not the discipline of the Almighty. For he wounds, but he binds up; he shatters, but his hands heal” (Job 5:17-18). Eliphaz’s comment may have sounded good and might even have encouraged Job if he had actually been suffering because of a sin that he committed, but according to Wisdom, the ones who are blessed are those who keep my ways. Wisdom tells us:

“And now, O sons, listen to me:
    blessed are those who keep my ways.
Hear instruction and be wise,
    and do not neglect it.
Blessed is the one who listens to me,
    watching daily at my gates,
    waiting beside my doors.
For whoever finds me finds life
    and obtains favor from the Lord,
but he who fails to find me injures himself;
    all who hate me love death.” (Proverbs 8:32-36)

The Hebrew word that is translated blessed in Job 5:17 and Proverbs 8:32 and 34 is ʾesher (ehˊ-sher). ʾEsher “is a masculine noun meaning a person’s state of bliss. This Hebrew word is always used to refer to people and is never used of God. It is almost exclusively poetic and usually exclamatory, ‘O the bliss of…’ In Proverbs, this blissfulness is frequently connected with wisdom (Proverbs 3:13; 8:32, 34). This term is also used to describe a person or nation who enjoys a relationship with God (Deuteronomy 33:29; Job 5:17)” (H835). At the end of the book of Job, we find out that Job was right and his friends were wrong about the circumstances of his suffering. The LORD rebuked Job’s friends and restored his fortunes. Job 42:7-8 states:

After the Lord had spoken these words to Job, the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has. Now therefore take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and offer up a burnt offering for yourselves. And my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly. For you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.”

Job’s experience brought him to the conclusion that he didn’t really understand how things worked in the spiritual realm (Job 42:2-4). Job concluded his conversation with the LORD by stating, “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:5-6).

The LORD’s command to destroy all the people that were living in the land of Canaan may have been perceived to be too harsh or too difficult for the Israelites to carry out, but none the less, they needed to obey the LORD. Moses reiterated this command near the end of his enumeration of the law in the Book of Deuteronomy. Moses said:

“But in the cities of these peoples that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance, you shall save alive nothing that breathes, but you shall devote them to complete destruction, the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites, as the Lord your God has commanded, that they may not teach you to do according to all their abominable practices that they have done for their gods, and so you sin against the Lord your God.” (Deuteronomy 20:16-18)

“This is the final statement of God’s judgment on the six peoples listed in this passage…Archeological evidence reveals how incredibly depraved these tribes were. They practiced human sacrifice and every sort of sexual perversion. It is said that the land ‘vomited out its inhabitants’ (Leviticus 18:21-25) because of the grievous nature of their sins. The sinfulness of these pagans would present a strong temptation to the Israelites; therefore these tribes were to be destroyed. As the incident with the Moabites revealed (Numbers 25:1-3), the Israelites were all too prone to adopt the idolatrous and inhuman practices of her neighbors. Those forms of Canaanite worship that the Israelites did not destroy according to God’s command are described as being a ‘snare’ to them (Exodus 23:33; 34:12; Deuteronomy 7:16; 12:30)” (note on Deuteronomy 20:16-18).

Psalm 128 makes it clear that the personal state of bliss associated with wisdom is connected to the worship of God. It states:

Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord,
    who walks in his ways!
You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands;
    you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you.

Your wife will be like a fruitful vine
    within your house;
your children will be like olive shoots
    around your table.
Behold, thus shall the man be blessed
    who fears the Lord.

The Lord bless you from Zion!
    May you see the prosperity of Jerusalem
    all the days of your life!
May you see your children’s children!
    Peace be upon Israel!

Even though Psalm 128 is directed toward the people of Israel, it indicates in verse one of this psalm that everyone who fears the LORD and walks in his ways will be blessed, or more specifically, will experience a state of bliss (H835).

Jesus eluded to believers experiencing a state of bliss in his Sermon on the Mount. He said, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven” (Matthew 5:11-12). The Greek word that is translated rejoice, chairo (khahʾ-ee-ro) means “to be ‘cheer’ful, i.e. calmly happy or well-off” (G5463). Two Greek words that are derived from chairo, chara (khar-ahˊ) and charis (kharˊ-ece) link together God’s grace and the state of bliss that Jesus associated with Christian persecution. The epistle of James takes it one step further by connecting bliss with the testing of our faith. James said, “Count it all joy (bliss) my brothers when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:2-4). James concluded his discussion of suffering by stating, “We think of those who stayed true to Him as happy even though they suffered. You have heard how long Job waited. You have seen what the Lord did for him in the end. The Lord is full of loving-kindness and pity” (James 5:11, NLV).

The whole story

The author of Proverbs 30 states “Every word of God is pure: He is a shield unto them that put their trust in him Add thou not unto his words lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar” (Proverbs 30:5-6). The topics covered in the Bible are extensive. I think it is safe to assume that any circumstance that we may encounter in life is dealt with in the Bible. The reason why God’s word is recorded is because he is the ultimate authority on everything pertaining to life. That is why his word is referred to as pure. It is qualified to do the work it is intended to (6884).

The work that God’s word is intended to do is protect us. Life is filled with unpredictable and unexpected situations that we often have to deal with in the moment, without the advice of an expert. If we knew what was coming, we might be able to prepare ourselves or learn enough to avoid making a mistake, but the most difficult circumstances seem to come immediately, without any warning.

Agur’s warning to “add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar” (Proverbs 30:6) has to do with Moses’ command to the Israelites shortly before they entered the Promised Land. In essence, Moses told the people that God’s word was like a legal contract, each of his promises were like an article or clause that was legally binding. If anything was added that God did not agree to, it could make the contract null and void, which is what happened and why Jesus made a new covenant or contract when he came to the earth.

Some people think the Old Testament is invalid, it does not apply to Christians. That is probably why from a prophetic standpoint Agur, the author of Proverbs 30, was led to say that “every word of God is pure” (vs. 5). Even though the Old Testament does not necessarily apply to Christians, it contains valuable lessons about the mistakes the Israelites made. Like parents that provide us with examples of all the wrong things to do, so the Israelites’ failures are relevant lessons that God teaches us using real life examples.

Preview of coming attraction

Solomon’s wisdom was recognized by everyone as a gift from God. It says in 2 Chronicles 9:23, “And all the kings of the earth sought the presence of Solomon, to hear his wisdom, that God had put in his heart.” The Hebrew word translated wisdom, chokmâh (khok – maw´) is derived from the word châkam (khaw – kam´) which means to be wise. “This word represents the discernment of good and evil, prudence in secular matters, skill in arts, and experience in Divine things. It is moral rather than intellectual; it is the adaptation of what we know to what we have (and ought) to do” (2449).

Chokmah or wisdom “is the knowledge and the ability to make right choices at the opportune time. The consistency of making the right choices is an indication of maturity and development” (2451). Solomon may have prayed for wisdom because he was young and inexperienced when he became king. His father’s sins of adultery and murder must have made Solomon fearful of making the same kinds of mistakes. Even though Solomon sinned by marrying foreign wives, his moral track record was impressive considering the wealth and resources he had access to.

The wisdom that Solomon received is compared to the fruit of the Spirit that is manifested in the lives of believers (2451). It is remarkable to think that any and every Christian can be as wise as Solomon was. The apostle Paul said, “walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16). Although it does not state specifically that Solomon was filled with the Holy Spirit, it is possible that the reference to his wisdom, “that God put in his heart” (2 Chronicles 9:23) meant that he was indwelt by the Spirit just as believers are today.

Practice makes perfect

The concept of time is relative to experience. The more experience we have with something, the less we become aware of time while doing it. Therefore, the more we do something, the less time it seems to take. Eventually, we may reach a level of experience where we lose track of time or become completely unaware of time while doing something. It is at that point when eternity or “time out of mind” (5769) begins to make sense to us.

Solomon said that “to every purpose there is time and judgment” (Ecclesiastes 8:6) and “better is the end of a thing than the beginning” (Ecclesiastes 7:8). Sometimes we avoid a certain experience because we think we won’t like it or it might turn out badly. Therefore, we do not reach a point where we can see things from an eternal perspective. For example, a person gets divorced and decides to never remarry because the breakup was too painful.

Solomon said, “then I beheld all the work of God, that a man cannot find out the work that is done” (Ecclesiastes 8:17). The words translated work and done are associated with practice. They refer to something that is done habitually, a lifestyle that has become a way of life. It is difficult to get an eternal perspective on something if you only do it once, especially if you don’t get to see the outcome or end result. From an eternal perspective, a bad result is better than no result if you learn from your mistake.

 

A more excellent way

The saying “ignorance is bliss” is probably more true than most people realize. Solomon, the wisest man that ever lived said, “for in much wisdom is much grief and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow” (Ecclesiastes 1:18). I remember distinctly how I felt the night I found out my husband was having an affair. It was like a knife had pierced my heart. I sobbed uncontrollably and laid awake all night trying to process what I had heard. The pain was so severe, I actually thought the truth might kill me.

There were many times after that night that I wished my husband hadn’t told me what was going on. I wondered why he couldn’t have kept it to himself. I wanted to go back to the way things were when I thought he was a good man that could never do such a thing. My husband was a Christian, at least that was what he had led me to believe.

At the end of his life, Solomon looked back and decided “that wisdom excelleth folly, as far as light excelleth darkness” (Ecclesiastes 2:13). The word translated excelleth, yithrown means preeminence or surpassing all others (3504). Yithrown is derived from the word yathar which means to exceed or excel (3498). Sometimes the word yathar indicates survivors and reflects the idea of a remnant, such as when Israel is dispersed throughout the world and a remnant survives and returns to the Promised Land. (Ezekiel 6:8).

It was very difficult for me to see the reality of what was going on around me and to know the truth about my marriage. As time went on, I was able to trust God and learn from my experience. Ultimately, I became a different person and began to understand what I had done wrong and why my marriage had failed.

Memory

Buried deep within the unconscious mind are a million memories of things that have happened over a lifetime. It says in Proverbs 25:2 that “it is the glory of God to conceal a thing.” One of the reasons we cannot think as God does or understand his way of doing things is because we have so little access to the information that is stored in our brains. Most of the time we are inundated with too much information, more than our brains can process efficiently. Sometimes it may seem as if certain memories are hidden from us. It is as if they have been stored in a secret compartment that we no longer have access to.

Over the past few years, I have been going through a process of recovering memories associated with being raped when I was a teenager. During a conversation with my sister, I learned that she had shared information with someone that I thought was a secret between just the two of us. The knowledge of what had happened caused a shift in my thinking and suddenly everything connected to the event we were talking about became clear to me, it all made sense.

In spite of Solomon’s supernatural wisdom, it appears that he was unable to reflect on past mistakes or make sense of patterns in his own behavior. In Proverbs 25:3, Solomon said, “the heart of kings is unsearchable.” Solomon believed that God controlled his heart (Proverbs 21:1) to the extent that all his actions were divinely ordained. Solomon could not turn to the right or the left without God directing his footsteps (Proverbs 16:9), therefore his thought processes  were limited.

In order for us to understand why we do the things we do, we must be able to access our unconscious minds. It is possible that Solomon was referring to this when he said, “the heart of kings is unsearchable” because according to the Hebrew language, memory is an activity of the heart (3820). Just as trauma can cause various types of amnesia, so may God block certain memories in order to accomplish his purposes.

Mommy

The best seven years of my life were the ones when I was a stay-at-home mom. On the day my daughter was born I knew I had found my calling. When I saw her for the first time, I immediately fell in love and after 33 years, I love her just as much now as I ever have. I didn’t know until it actually happened to me that being a mom would be the best thing for me. When I was growing up, I never thought about being a mom, but I’m sure it is what God created me to be.

When God creates things or people, he does it with wisdom. It says about wisdom in Proverbs 8:22-23, “The LORD possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was.” The word translated wisdom, chokmah “can refer to technical skills or special abilities in fashioning something. Chokmah is the knowledge and the ability to make the right choices at the opportune time. The consistency of making right choices is an indicator of maturity and development” (2451).

At the time God created me, he had a purpose in mind for every characteristic and trait he gave me. In his design, God established certain abilities in me that would enable me to live my life according to his plan. Before I became a Christian, I was not concerned with God’s plan, nor did I care if what I was doing was pleasing to God. When I got pregnant with my daughter, even though I was not married, I didn’t think it was a mistake. I believed that God wanted me to be a mom, so I chose to continue with the pregnancy rather than have an abortion.

Consent

On the night I was raped, when I was 14, I was spending the night at my friend Bernadette’s house. After I arrived, I found out Bernadette’s mom had gone out for the night and her boyfriend Tom was taking care of her eight children. Tom was a drug dealer and that night one of his sellers came over for a visit. The two of them went into the bedroom and shut the door so they could try out Tom’s new product in private. I was invited to join them and in spite of my reservations, I did.

The book of Proverbs contains advice from Solomon, the wisest man that has ever lived. In his warnings against violence, Solomon said, “My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not” (Proverbs 1:10). The Hebrew word translated as entice, pâthâh (paw – thaw´) in a sinister way, means to delude or deceive. Pathah is also translated as persuade, allure, and flatter (6601). The Hebrew verb that is translated as consent has to do with a person’s will. Abah “basically represents the inclination which leads towards action, rather than the volition which immediately precedes it” (14). To consent to something means that you are willing to do it, you are not being forced.

The invitation I received to join Tom’s private party was enticing. Because I had never smoked marijuana, I thought Tom was right when he encouraged me to at least try it. There couldn’t be any harm in taking one little puff. I didn’t know that Tom had something completely different in mind when he invited me into his bedroom. After I took one puff, I blacked out and didn’t regain consciousness until I was on the bed, half naked, with Tom on top of me, forcing me to have sexual intercourse with him.

And

When God answered Solomon’s prayer for wisdom and knowledge, God did not just give him wisdom and knowledge, God gave Solomon wisdom, knowledge, and wealth.

And God said to Solomon, because this was in thine heart, and thou hast not asked riches, wealth, or honour, nor the life of thine enemies, neither yet hast asked long life, but hast asked wisdom and knowledge for thyselft that thou mayest judge my people, over whom I have made thee king: wisdom and knowledge is granted unto thee; and I will give thee riches, and wealth, and honour, such as none of the kings have had that have been before thee, neither shall there any after thee have the like. (2 Chronicles:11-12)

Typically, God only gives us what we ask for. It says in James 4:2, “ye have not, because ye ask not.” In general, we understand that we need to ask God for what we want, but in Solomon’s case, God gave Solomon something he didn’t ask for… and maybe didn’t want. It is not clear whether Solomon wanted wealth, but didn’t ask for it or God decided to give Solomon wealth even though or because he didn’t want it.

It’s hard to imagine that Solomon, or anyone else for that matter, would not want to be wealthy. It could have been that Solomon was not interested in material possessions, but more than likely, Solomon already had everything he wanted as far as material possessions go. King David was a rich man and probably gave his son everything he asked for. The one thing David couldn’t give his son was wisdom because wisdom only comes from God.

Prior to Solomon, people relied on casting lots to determine the will of God. It may not have occurred to them that they could possess wisdom and be able to discern the will of God without having to ask every time a new situation came up. Knowing the will of God was probably important to Solomon because he didn’t want to make mistakes like his father David had. King David’s affair with Bath-sheba and murder of her husband Uriah caused his family a great deal of pain and suffering. When Nathan the prophet confronted David with his sin, he used a story of greed to depict David’s actions.

In spite of his youth, I believe Solomon was already a wise man when he asked God to give him wisdom and knowledge. Only a wise man would realize that wealth was not the answer to success. I think God gave Solomon wealth because God knew he was wise enough to not abuse it. Solomon was not concerned with impressing other people and was content with what he already had.

An understanding heart

“In Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night: and God said, Ask what I shall give thee” (1 Kings 3:5). Solomon’s prayer for wisdom resulted in God making him the wisest man to ever live (1 Kings 3:12). Solomon’s request was for an understanding heart that would enable him to “discern between good and bad (1 Kings 3:9). The word translated understanding, shâma‘ (shaw – mah´) means to hear intelligently and also to give undivided attention (8085). The word shama appears frequently in the Psalms in reference to God hearing the prayers of David. God gave Solomon a supernatural ability that made it possible for Solomon to achieve mental excellence without studying a single subject or experiencing anything himself.

An example of Solomon’s wise decision-making is recorded in 1 Kings 3:16-27. In this particular case, two women are claiming to be the mother of the same child. After hearing their story, Solomon orders the child to be divided into two and half given to each of the women. His shocking decree prompts the real mother to give up her half so that the child can live (1 Kings 3:25-26). What is clear from this example is that Solomon is an expert in human behavior. Solomon understood that a mother’s love for her child should prompt her to sacrifice her own well being for that of her child. Most likely, Solomon knew from the beginning which of the two women was the real mother based on her facial expressions and demeanor, but he chose to let the real mother decide the outcome. It was the real mother’s unselfishness that allowed her to keep her child. If she had agreed to divide the child, rather than give him up, both of the women would have left empty handed.

Solomon was endowed with special abilities given to him by God, not for his own benefit, but for the benefit of the people he ruled over. As the king of Israel, Solomon had the power to decide people’s fate. If he made good decisions, the people would thrive and prosper. If he made bad decisions, the people would become corrupt and dishonesty would ruin relationships. In the case of the two women claiming to be the mother of the same child, one of the women was lying. Because her lie was discovered, she was no longer able to take advantage of the women she lived with. As they both went back home, the real mother and her child reunited, the woman that lied probably wondered to herself, How did Solomon figure it out? I thought for sure I could convince him that I was the real mother.